Nearly half of the world's wild-caught fish are ground up into fishmeal and fed to farmed fish, cattle and pigs.
It's a huge business. Last year Chile exported at least $535 million worth of fishmeal, while Peru sold a staggering $1.6 billion, The New York Times reported.
As environmental activists warn the world's oceans are fast depleting, an African company has come up with a possible solution to the problem: flies and maggots.
In Cape Town Tuesday night, South African tech firm AgriProtein won a $100,000 prize for "technological innovation" sponsored by the UN. AgriProtein, which is also working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has developed a new product it calls Magmeal.
AgriProtein breeds flies at its production facility near Cape Town. A single female fly can lay between 750 to over 1,000 eggs per week. The eggs will then hatch into larvae, according to a profile of the company written last year by the website TradeInvestAfrica.
"Larvae go through three life stages in a 72-hour period, and are harvested just becoming pupae. The harvested larvae are then dried on a fluidised bed dryer, milled into flake form and packed according to customers’ preferences," according to the report.
Chickens and other livestock should have no problem eating the dried maggots instead of fishmeal, the company figures.
"It is not particularly a very attractive topic but the product is natural and what chickens eat in the wild," AgriProtein says on its website.
AgriProtein was among 900 applications from 45 countries who bid on the 2013 Innovation Prize for Africa Awards.
According to Techmoran.com, some other finalists included: SavvyLoo, an eco waterless toilet that drains liquids from solids for environmental impact; The TBag Water Filter, a filter that cleans polluted water and The Malaria pf/PAN Test Kit, a malaria treatment test that determines within 30 minutes if treatment is effective.
Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at The Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead